In 1983, during a time of high youth unemployment in the UK, HRH The Prince of Wales decided his Trust should do more to help young people who were struggling to find work.

He started looking into ways of setting up a programme, which would help young people start their own business and find a way out of unemployment.

It is now known as the Enterprise programme but it has taken many guises in its time since it was created 31 years ago. In that time it was supported more than 80,000 young people to help them start a business.

In September, HRH The Prince of Wales visited the Bermondsey studio of furniture designer, Damilola Owoseje, and met other young entrepreneurs who have been supported by The Prince's Trust. During a discussion about the importance of helping young people to set up in business, The Prince was asked what inspired him to start the Enterprise Programme, the challenges he faced while trying to set it up, and what his aims are for it going forward…

What inspired you to start the programme?

“It all started back during the early 1980’s when the Toxteth riots happened and I thought we must try and do something.

It was then a case of working out what the best move was to ensure that those young people who had potential, talent and ideas were putting them to good use. 

How did you get it started and what were the challenges?

“We started by just giving grants to people, not loans. I remember we had to go around and try and recruit mentors, and others, who will see the point in supporting the programme. That took a lot of effort because you have to go to meetings with people and try and convince them that it’s a good idea.

We recruited people and we then managed to set up the Youth Business Initiative, which started to grow by leaps and bounds. The wonderful thing was that in the first year, there was something like 80 to 85% success rate of people still in business.

“We managed to merge with another organisation called Youth Enterprise, which were providing loans for people from less disadvantaged backgrounds. It took a lot of effort as we had to persuade many of our trustees on why it was a good idea to provide loans.

“We were then able to provide proper loans and business support, and it became known as the Business Programme.”

What are the aims for the future of the Enterprise programme?

One of the important things I would like to have now is an alumni association with all the businesses who have been helped by The Trust, who can now help others.

“We often have people coming back who have made a huge success of their business and they want to support The Trust. The aim is to create a virtuous circle.”

Feeling inspired?

Anyone can have a great business idea. If you're interested in setting up your own business, get in touch with The Prince's Trust and we could help make it happen.

What's your idea?